Hypoxia (Robin Pruisner, DNR Nutrient Mgmt. Specialist)
What water quality problems does the DNR face? Robin Pruisner explains.
Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico...hypoxia means lack of oxygen. Down in the Gulf of Mexico there is this big area, people call it the Dead Zone, where you don't have fish and you don't have other aquatic life or plants. They just all die. Hypoxia is something that's always happened; however, with farming and wastewater releases from cities, we're putting more nutrients down the river than we probably have in the past, so this dead zone has grown. Trying to quantify what's going down the river and who put it in the river is really difficult because it really changes year by year. For instance, a couple years ago we had a really dry year and there wasn't a lot of water. Everything that's in the water...going down the [Mississippi] and into the Gulf. And when that happened the Dead Zone actually shrunk. There's been many studies done that try to quantify [the nutrients] and say so many percent of the nutrients are coming from Iowa, and so many are coming from Illinois. And they try to assign that back to a particular location. Everybody likes to argue if those studies are right or wrong and because it's so dependent on weather and all kinds of environmental things that we don't have control over, it's hard to say. But we believe that agriculture and discharges from urban areas definitely do contribute to the hypoxia problem. And that's something that we're working on today is. So what is it that we need to change or do better so we reduce the hypoxia as much as possible?